MANDALAY — An endangered Irrawaddy dolphin was found dead near Katha Township, Sagaing Region by local fishermen on Sunday.
The female dolphin had cuts on her abdomen. She was found washed up on a riverbank near Kyauk Pone village.
“Her organs spilled out from the cuts. It did not look like a propeller injury. The cuts looked intentional, whether they killed her or happened after she was already dead,” said U Kyaw, one of the locals that discovered the body.
The Irrawaddy dolphin measured 7’6” and is the third one to have died this year.
In April, a male dolphin was found dead with injuries on his fins believed to have been caused by a boat’s propeller. In June, a 30-year-old female was found dead with no injuries, the cause of death thought to be natural causes.
Although the cause of the latest death is unknown, local environmental activists point to electric-shock fishing, a major threat to this endangered species.
Electric-shock fishing, especially in the Irrawaddy River’s protective zone, is prohibited by the Freshwater Fisheries Law enacted by the Department of Fisheries. Violators face three years in prison or a 300,000 kyats fine.
“The government and responsible authorities need a strict law, rules and regulation that can protect these endangered species effectively,” said U Mg Mg Oo, a member of the local environmental activist group Green Activity.
“Fishermen who use electric-shock fishing do not care about the law and they even attack those who report or arrest them. Apart from electric-shock fishing, we also need an effective law to prevent pollution of the river,” he added.
According to statistics from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in 2012 there were only 86 Irrawaddy dolphins. By 2014, the population was just 63. In 2015, 58 were counted in the protective zone, which spans from Mandalay to Bhamo.
The population of dolphins was counted as 65 in 2016, despite three dolphins, including a pregnant female, being found dead that year.
According to the WCS’s survey in February this year, 69 dolphins were found in the protective zone. That number now stands at 66 after the three deaths this year.